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Himachal gets Rs. 800 crores loan from Japan to fix environmental damage caused by developmental projects

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Himachal Pradesh Livelihood and Forest Ecosystems Management

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh Livelihood and Forest Ecosystems Management project has been finally signed between the Indian Government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).  The Agency on March 29, 2018, signed loan agreements to provide Japanese ODA loans of up to a total of 187.884 billion yen to India for five projects.

The Rs. 800 crore project for Himachal is one of these agreements. The project would be implemented six districts namely, Bilaspur, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Mandi and Shimla in next ten years.

Out of total project cost, Rs. 640 crore would be provided as loans.

The government says it will establish a sustainable forest conservation system for local economic development with help of this loan. As per the HP Government, the following are the objectives of the project:

  1. Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management
  2. Sustainable Biodiversity Management
  3. Livelihoods Improvement Support
  4.  Institutional Capacity Strengthening

What is HP Livelihood and Forest Ecosystems Management?

As per the agreement, the project will promote activities pertaining to sustainable forest ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation in Himachal, as well as creating an implementation system for those activities, building the capacity of participants, and strengthening the livelihood infrastructure of local residents. These measures will strengthen the ecosystem management system in the forested areas of the Hill State.

If the government is to be believed, the project is expected to implement afforestation activities over an area covering at least 10,000 hectares in Himachal. T

The local residents will be given training for sustainable forest ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. The project also includes extending support for livelihood improvements such as in poultry farming and horticulture will also be provided.

Why Himachal Need It

As per the project details, the major concern is to protect biodiversity and conserve forests. The State is filled with rugged topography, from low hills to soaring mountains, and also has a diverse ecosystem.

The state as a whole is also a part of the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot,* and is a house of many endangered species listed on the IUCN Red List.

There is no doubt about it that the State requires ecosystem conservation. The forest resource use is increasing due to a rising population, the burden on forest resources has been growing due to deforestation by development projects, and the forests have been suffering from local degradation due to forest fires and other causes.

Such forest degradation affects the biological habitat, threatening the loss of the biodiversity. In addition, wild animals have frequently appeared in the human biosphere in recent years because of forest degradation, and there has been much damage to residents, livestock and more.

Therefore, it requires necessary steps to quickly strengthen forest conservation and biodiversity conservation measures.

Details of the All MoU Signed 

    Annual interest rate (%)    
Project title Amount (million yen)    
Project Consulting services Repayment period (years) Grace period (years
           
           
Mumbai Metro Line 3 Project (II) 100,000 1.5 0.01 30 10
Project for Construction of Chennai Seawater Desalination Plant (I) 30,000 1.5 0.01 30 10
Project for Improvement of Himachal Pradesh Forest Ecosystems Management and Livelihoods 11,136 1.3 0.01 30 10
Project for Installation of Chennai Metropolitan Area Intelligent Transport Systems 8,082 1.5 0.01 30 10
North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project (Phase 2) 38,666 1.2 0.01 30 10
Total 187,884        

 

* Biodiversity hotspot: An area designated by Conservation International having a significant level of biodiversity with many unique species and being threatened with severe destruction of the ecosystem.

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Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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